Gilbert Speaks on The White Lotus Seasons 1 and 2

Holy hell begins with a dysfunctional vacation at a high-priced resort called the White Lotus. What began as a scroll through HBO to find something fun to watch became, for me and my daughter, a two-day binge party, and I am going to tell you why this series is top of my watching list.

The White Lotus S01

The White Lotus is an American comedy-drama anthology series on HBO. It follows, within the two seasons (with hopefully a third on the way), the guests and the beleaguered staff of the White Lotus hotels, first in Hawaii and then in Sicily. Created, written and directed by Mike White, the first season is set in Hawaii. In season one, the series begins with a casket being loaded into an airplane. Who died? We don’t find out until the last episode. And holy hell, what a shocker!

In S01 E 01, the hotel manager, Armond (Murray Bartlett) and his loyal staff, which includes the kindly and spiritual spa manager, Belinda Lindsey (Natasha Rothwell), await the ship that will be dropping off the vacationers. The hotel is stunningly beautiful as is the scenery of Hawaii. But it isn’t long before we realize that poor Armand has his hands full of wacky and entitled dingbats. The guests include Mark (Steve Zahn) and Nicole (Connie Britton) Mossbacher and their children, Quinn (Fred Hechinger), Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) and her friend Paula (Brittany O’Grady). The mother is a CEO of a search engine company, and her husband thinks he has testicular cancer.

The other guests are newlyweds Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) and Shane (Jake Lacy). Next is Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) a grieving, spoiled millionaire with mommy issues. Tanya is there to scatter her mother’s ashes. The madness begins when Shane realizes that their fabulous room is not the room that his mother booked for the honeymoon. You have an instant dislike for Shane who, besides harassing the manager nonstop, also wants to groom his freelance journalist bride into quitting her job and living her life as his arm candy.

As much as we despise Shane, we find ourselves liking Mark as he deals with the awaited call from his doctor on the diagnosis and tries to bond with his teenage son. His son Quinn needs protection from his obnoxious sister and her friend Paula as they not only torment him but pull out a full “Valley Girl” critique on the other guests. There are marital problems with Mark and Nicole that we learn about later, but the guest that kept me mesmerized was Tanya. This woman has money coming out the wazoo and she plays the eternal victim in order to get other people to cater to her and nurture her. She takes the kindness of the spa manager, Belinda, for granted while promising Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) the funds for her own spa.

The White Lotus reveals the rich as the selfish and entitled creatures that they are, and cracks open the veneer of their fake concern for the rest of humanity. Everything comes to a head as Paula encourages one of the waiters, Kai (Kekoa Kekumano) to commit a crime against the Mosbachers…and Armond is forced to seek revenge against Shane. The season finale will knock you off your feet…between Armand’s revenge (I never in my life expected this) and who the body was in that casket.

Side note: actress Jennifer Coolidge is fabulous as Tanya. You may want to strangle her character, but Jennifer must have had the time of her life playing Tanya…which is great for the series, and us fans, because she stars in season two of The White Lotus.

The White Lotus S02

Season 02 of The White Lotus begins with a body floating in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Taormina, Sicily. We are not privy to who the body is until the last episode, but like its predecessor, this season has the obnoxious guests dueling with the hotel staff while getting into all kinds of sexual shenanigans. This is definitely an adult series, so put the kids to bed before watching.

Taormina

The hotel, the scenery, the glimpses of Mount Etna, a live volcano, hypnotize us as we meet the vacationers as they arrive at the dock. Starting with two couples: Ethan (Will Sharpe) and his wife Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and Cameron (Theo James) and his wife Daphne (Meghann Fahy). The hotel manager, Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) along with her staff greet the passengers at the dock.

Valentina has her hands full keeping two prostitutes, Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and Mia (Beatrice Granno) from harassing the clientele. Unfortunately for Valentina the Di Grasso men are horny little buggers and Dominic Di Grasso (Michael Imperioli) makes sure that Lucia and Mia have the run of the hotel…it seems that money does buy everything. The reason for three-generational trip is that Grandpa Di Grasso (F. Murray Abraham) wants to connect with any living family members in Sicily. Dominic is a cheater and separated from his wife but is hoping that his son Albie (Adam DiMarco) can smooth things over with mom. Next but not least on the dock is Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) and her assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson). Tanya is meeting her husband Greg (Jon Gries) at the hotel. What is neat is that Jennifer’s and Jon’s characters were carried over from Season 1.

Even though Ethan and Cameron are college friends, there is a sick rivalry between them…both business and women. Harper can’t stand the pretentious Cameron or his wife but Ethan is always siding with Cameron, thus leaving his unsatisfied wife (long story) to get sweet revenge.

Right away, we see the relationships begin to fall apart, first with Tanya when she suspects that her husband might be cheating on her. Tanya continues to play the victim in this season, but she has someone new to bully around. Poor Portia is told to stay in her room and is given dirty looks if she is even spotted eating at the hotel restaurant. It isn’t until Greg leaves on a business trip that all hell breaks loose for Tanya and Portia.

Quentin

As soon as Greg leaves the hotel, Tanya is approached by Quentin (Tom Hollander) and his gay friends. He tells Tanya that he has a villa in Sicily and asks Tanya and Portia to spend a few days there for a party. Portia, who was becoming friendly with Albie, dumps him for Quentin’s nephew, Jack (Leo Woodall). What Tanya doesn’t know is that Quentin has lots of dark and dangerous secrets.

Conclusion

I don’t want to give to much away, but let’s just say that Tanya finally figures out Quentin’s secret and his connection to Greg. You will be just as shocked with this ending. There is a season 3 coming out and I can’t wait.

Side Note: Before Covid hit, I had the opportunity to take a cruise to Greece and Italy. One of the stops was Taormina. It is much more beautiful than shown in this series. I also had the opportunity to see Mount Etna. This is an active volcano, but that didn’t stop me from standing at the foot of the mountain.

My mother was born and raised in Italy, so I am very aware of not acting like an obnoxious tourist. But on my three trips to Italy, I did come across people like Tanya, Shane, and the Mossbachers. Luckily for me…there were no bodies. Watch The White Lotus on HBO. You won’t be sorry. 

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